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By the time Road F35 changed from paved to gravel the landscape itself had changed. The thermal zones of Geysir gave way to a landscape that was open and vast, punctuated by table top mountains and grassy volcanic plains. My traveling companion Adam and I were bound for the highland region of Kerlingarfjöll to begin an 11 day workshop scouting trip. The wind was picking up as we drove deeper into the highlands which certainly became an issue for us later that evening, but for now we were content to marvel at the landscape and moderate weather. After cresting a small bluff, the road dropped into a sweeping grass covered valley, and I saw sheep moving off to the right. Ahead of us was the large table top mountain, Bláfell with a wind driven cloud sitting over the summit, giving the appearance of an erupting volcano. I was thinking that there was an image to be made here.
We quickly pulled over and moved as stealthily as possible to try and position the sheep and the mountain together. The sheep of course were not cooperative. At first they were inquisitive but realized soon enough that we were not “their” farmer and moved away giving us a perfect shot of their furry rear ends. This game of cat and mouse, aka photographer and sheep, played out for about 30 minutes before I gave up and headed back to the car. And then I caught a break and this shot. I brought the camera up and fired the shutter. I knew the exposure was good but I was shooting all manual (think a Leica M240), and hoped I was hyper-focused correctly. I was sort of, and it is a defining shot for me. It is not a perfect image. It is not even in perfect focus. It is what I saw and the way I saw it that is important to me. It is an image that represents the start of a great trip but is also one that tells a story of these sheep and the vastness of the Icelandic landscape. It would not be long before the start of the gathering and these sheep would be rounded up and brought home to their farms, just as it has been done since the time of settlement.
In case you might be wondering Bláfell is a volcanic formation. It is a Tuya type volcano, which is any distinctive, flat-topped, steep-sided volcano that is formed when lava erupts through a glacier or ice sheet. They are considered rare world-wide being confined to regions with glacial activity. So in actuality quite common in Iceland.
I would see a lot more sheep on this trip and would spend time at a gathering and réttir (sorting). These images became part of that story. I certainly will not forget running after them and trying to get them to pose. Of course I know now they were not going to pose at all and that exercise was just one of futility. It wasn’t until I let go of that notion that I was able to actually be open to the image. I just needed to let it happen.
Thanks as always for stopping by. RHC.
NOTE: Both images shot with a Leica M240 and a Leica 40mm Summicron.